The Kings are the NBA’s oldest team, predating the NBA’s forerunner, the Basketball Association of America (BAA), by 23 years. Founded in 1923 as a company basketball team in Rochester, NY, the team became the Rochester Royals after merging with another local semi-pro team and joining the National Basketball League (NBL) in 1945. The Royals then joined the BAA in 1948, one year before the NBL and BAA merged to form the present-day NBA. The Royals defeated the New York Knicks to win the franchise’s lone NBA championship in 1951.
While the team experience good and bad times on the court, the franchise would relocate several times seeking stronger financial success. The team relocated to Cincinnati in 1957 as the Cincinnati Royals, then again in 1972 where they split their home games between two cities in Missouri and Nebraska, abandoning the ‘Royals’ nickname to become the Kansas City-Omaha Kings, to avoid conflict with the Kansas City Royals baseball team. In 1975, the Kings began playing exclusively in Kansas City and dropped the ‘Ohama’ portion of their geographic indicator, becoming the Kansas City Kings. The team was later sold to an ownership group in Sacramento, where the team moved in 1985, becoming the Sacramento Kings.
The Royals/Kings franchise has maintained a fairly consistent branding motif through most of their history. The team has worn various shades of blue or, more recently, purple, in keeping with the royal theme of their nicknames. The logo long consisted of a red crown with the team nickname capping a blue basketball with the geographic indicator above or below. Since becoming the Kings, the team’s jerseys have mostly displayed the ‘Kings’ nickname across the chest.
The current purple-silver-and-black color scheme has been in use since 1994, with the most recent update to the visual identity going into effect before the start of the 2014-15 season when the uniforms and alternate logos were slightly revised.
The primary logo, which was introduced in 1994, is a coat-of-arms with the ‘Kings’ wordmark over over a pair of crossed lances, with a purple basketball just beneath the wordmark and a silver crown just above it, which is partially covered by a purple banner which curls around the ends of the lances with ‘Sacramento’ written across it. The overall design is well balanced and effectively conveys the regal nature of team name. However, the flat nature of the lances, which are both in front of and behind the wordmark section, create a paradox which could easily be remedied with white highlights and a selective thickening of certain portions of the black outline.
The alternate logos compress the crown element of the primary logo, rendering it in purple with either a thick double outline in white and black or by itself with no outline. The design is overly simplistic and aesthetically uninteresting.
The current home and road uniforms, which have been worn since the start of the 2014-15 season are a slightly updated version of the uniform template introduced in 2008. The revised uniform brings back the ‘Kings’ wordmark from the primary logo which was originally worn on the jerseys from 1994 to 2002. The player number has also been moved to the center to better match the curved nature of the wordmark.
The white home uniform has the ‘Kings’ wordmark and the player number in purple with purple and black side panels. The purple road uniforms have the wordmark and and player number in white with white and black side panels. Both of the uniforms have an angled design, pointing down from the armhole and up from the bottom of the sides of the shorts. The front line is straight while the back line comes forward at an angle creating a somewhat unbalanced look. The primary logo appears on the bottom front portion of the left leg of the shorts.
The black alternate uniform, which has been worn since 2011, combines the Kings’ uniform template first introduced in 2008 with the script wordmark the team used from their latter days in Kansas City through the 1993-94 season in Sacramento. The old-fashioned nature of the wordmark clashes with the otherwise modern uniform template as well as the typeface used for the player number.
While the neither the ‘Royals’ nor ‘Kings’ nicknames have held any particular meaning for the cities of Rochester, Cincinnati, Kansas City or Sacramento, the Kings’ predominantly purple scheme is a perfect fit for a team with a regal theme since the color purple has long been associated with royalty. The process used to create purple dyes in ancient times was so difficult and costly that only kings and emperors were able to afford purple clothing. The crown and lances are emblematic of the popular imagery of British royalty.
While the Kings are one of four teams (along with the Lakers, Suns and Hornets) whose primary road uniform is purple, they are the only team with a color scheme consisting purple, black, silver and white. The Kings are also one of eight teams with a black alternate uniform.
The Kings get high marks for consistency, especially having returned the wordmark from the primary logo to jerseys, replacing the previous version which used the same typeface but not the same layout. The Kings lose points, however, for their alternate uniform which uses the same template as their primary uniforms, but with their much older script wordmark. A more era-appropriate uniform template would make for a better throwback design.
Points to Improve
- Place the current wordmark and player number set on the black alternate, or use a more era-appropriate uniform template for the script wordmark.
- Redesign the alternate logo and incorporate the team’s initials, a basketball, etc. to increase its visual appeal and distinctiveness and ability to represent the brand.
- Rebrand, choosing a nickname more reflective of the history and cultural legacy of Sacramento.
- Relocate to London as part of the NBA’s oft-mentioned intent to one day expand to Europe and change the name to the ‘London Kings’.
NBA Branding Assessment Ranking
Special thanks to Chris Creamer (sportslogos.net) for the logo and uniform images.
All writings contained herein are copyright ©2015 Brian F. Sanford. All intellectual property including but not limited to names, logos and uniforms are properties of the National Basketball Association, its member teams, ownership groups and/or organizations. All images are used for noncommercial educational purposes. No copyright infringement is intended.